What do we do well?
Collaborative Approaches to Tackling Domestic Abuse
The Domestic Abuse Joint Commissioning Group (“DAJCG”) was established in 2016 to explore options to co-commission all victims and perpetrator services (using existing budgets and funding streams) moving away from year-on-year funding of smaller individual contracts to create a more sustainable, multi-agency approach with shared outcomes. The DAJCG is chaired by a Commissioning and Partnerships Manager for the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and includes representatives from North Yorkshire Police Safeguarding Unit, and Community Safety, Public Health and Health and Adults Services within North Yorkshire County Council and City of York Council.
This innovative approach has enabled local commissioners to develop service specifications and key performance indicators aligned to a shared core set of outcomes with a focus on quality. The new jointly commissioned services have been rolled out through a phased approach from March 2019 to provide a complete enhanced package of support for everyone affected by domestic abuse, including:
- support for young people aged 10 to 16 years beginning to display abusive behaviour, including Child or Adolescent to Parent Violence or Abuse (“CAPVA”) or within intimate relationships with other young people;
- support for perpetrators aged 16 years and over to acknowledge and change their abusive behaviour, including the provision of emergency alternative accommodation where necessary to provide their victim/s respite;
- safe Accommodation and a Safe Haven Scheme for victims fleeing domestic abuse, including specialist support for their dependent children; and
- intensive person-centred support packages delivered by specialist workers both within safe accommodation and community-based teams to help all victims and survivors cope with the effects of domestic abuse whether they have reported to the police or not.
More recently, we have co-commissioned the development of a ‘Whole Family Approach’ pilot from July 2021 providing specialist support services for children and young people aged 10 to 16 years affected by domestic abuse occurring in their home. In addition to providing tailored support, IDAS is working in collaboration with academics and other key stakeholders to significantly improve the overall local evidence base of children and young people living in households where domestic abuse occurs, to identify the most effective interventions to meet their needs and inform future service development and strategic planning.
In comparison to total caseloads supported collectively through the previous separately commissioned services, the new co-commissioned services have been able to offer support to:
- twice as many victims and survivors in the first year, and 257% (approximately 5,400) more victims and survivors in 2020/21; and
- 150% (approximately 150) more families experiencing CAPVA in 2019/20 and 2020/21, as well as specialist support for young people using abusive behaviours towards their (intimate) partners which was not previously available.
It is also anticipated that greater value for money will be achieved overall by ensuring the total local investment by commissioners collectively prioritises the most effective interventions and services for these victims, perpetrators and their children thereby reducing demand on policing and criminal justice services, and other related statutory services such as health, housing, children, young people and family prevention services.
Operation Encompass is a partnership between North Yorkshire Police and schools, academies and colleges which aims to safeguard and support children affected by domestic abuse occurring in their home. The partnership commenced in January 2017 and has been adopted by almost every school in North Yorkshire and the City of York.
North Yorkshire Police share details of domestic abuse incidents occurring the previous day/night with Designated Safeguarding Leads within schools, academies and colleges where a child aged 4 to 18 years was directly involved or witnessed the incident. Schools, academies and colleges use the information that has been shared, in confidence, to support these children with any difficulties they may experience in school as a result of domestic abuse occurring within their home.
Domestic Abuse and Family Court Report
In 2019 the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner commissioned IDAS to conduct a review into the experiences of survivors of domestic abuse and their children in respect of family court proceedings, which included:
- a comprehensive review of the landscape of the family courts, the relevant stakeholders and strategic boards;
- survey of over 150 people to gain the views of a range of stakeholders including professionals, survivors, voluntary organisations and the judiciary; and
- consultation event attended by over 50 stakeholders.
The resulting report included a series of ambitious recommendations both on a national and a local level, and as a result the following has since been implemented in North Yorkshire and the City of York:
- establishment of a Domestic Abuse and Family Court Working Group which meets quarterly to drive forward continuous service improvements
- a new dedicated website aimed at survivors which provides information about the family court;
- development of a range of resources and information packs to assist stakeholders in better understanding the Family Courts and the impact of domestic abuse on civil proceedings, including three short videos and three training events on coercive and controlling behaviour attended by over 150 people
- bespoke postcards for North Yorkshire Police to hand out where appropriate when officers attend an incident of domestic abuse, which list the warning signs of domestic abuse and direct people to the website
- a documented pathway for the service of Non-Molestation Orders to the police to ensure breaches can be enforced more quickly and effectively
- facilitation of volunteer-led programmes to support survivors of domestic abuse, including survivor peer mentors
- a community legal companion scheme supporting those without legal representation with family separation and child contact arrangements through the Community Legal Outreach Collaboration Keele (“CLOCK”) project provided by students reading law at York St John University and the University of York
- development of a 5-week support group programme for survivors of domestic abuse going through family court proceedings; and
- closer working with the local family courts to develop an appropriate response to requests for special measures and to make more people aware of them, including an online video.
Project Shield is a ground-breaking pilot project developed as a result of the recommendations from the Domestic Abuse and Family Court Report (see above) which aims to improve the response to breaches of Non-Molestation Orders. Non-Molestation Orders (“NMOs”) are civil orders granted by the courts to protect victims of domestic abuse from further harm and breach of a NMO is a criminal offence.
The project is delivered by North Yorkshire Police in partnership with IDAS, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, Edge Hill University and CGI, the global IT and business consulting company. During the pilot all NMOs issued by the courts for victims in North Yorkshire and the City of York were recorded on the Police National Database and this is now standard practice in North Yorkshire. This allows police officers to more easily see if an order had been issued and served to the perpetrator to help them more effectively enforce any breaches and ultimately better safeguard victims from further abuse.
Whilst this pilot is the first of its kind there is still further work to do and North Yorkshire Police supported by the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner will continue to push for national rollout of this ground-breaking pilot so that all orders no matter where they are issued are recorded on Police National Database.
Multi-Agency Tasking and Co-ordination (“MATAC”)
MATAC is a proactive multi-agency approach to identifying and tackling serial or harmful perpetrators of domestic abuse. The MATAC process was first piloted by Northumbria Police and was adopted in North Yorkshire in December 2018.
MATAC uses existing police data to identify serial perpetrators of domestic abuse, who are then targeted in an attempt break the cycle of abuse. The process is designed to identify perpetrators who would not be identified through the usual risk or harm assessment processes. This is because they are generally assessed as standard or medium risk rather than high risk perpetrators but may be abusing multiple victims, moving from one vulnerable person to another. As a result, the risk level to any one individual victim may not escalate, however the amount of collective harm that individual perpetrator causes to multiple families can be substantial.
A multi-agency action plan for each individual perpetrator is agreed at MATAC meetings, where consideration is given to the most effective interventions to address that individual’s behaviour. The overall aim is to change their behaviour, reduce re-offending and prevent further harm to victims. Part of the action plan includes the offer of support across a range of criminogenic pathways such as access to substance misuse support services to influence wider behaviour change. If this approach does not work, then a range of disruption and enforcement tactics will also be used.
From its commencement in December 2018 to February 2022, over 200 Perpetrators have been adopted onto the scheme and been under closer scrutiny and police review. Of these, 82% were assessed as posing a lower risk 12 months after initial adoption onto the scheme, with 10% not offending in the last 2 years.
MATAC Prison Project
A joint initiative between North Yorkshire Police and prisons aims to better protect victims of domestic abuse by preventing prisoners contacting them, either directly or indirectly.
North Yorkshire Police can request prisons block all contact between a prisoner and their victim, including putting in measures to prevent another prisoner contacting the victim on their behalf. If prisoners try to communicate through a third party in the community outside of prison, the prisoner will also be placed on 100% mail monitoring by the prison.
Community-based services supporting victims or victims themselves can report any subsequent contact from the prisoner to North Yorkshire Police, who will share this with the relevant prison for appropriate action to be taken. If a victim reports phone contact from the prisoner, this would indicate they have access to an illicit mobile phone so targeted searches by the prison’s Dedicated Search Team will take place to seize any such devices.
Prisons also use the information provided by North Yorkshire Police to deliver focused Offender Management in Custody work and signpost prisoners to appropriate community-based interventions on release. A pilot is due to commence shortly whereby prisons will inform North Yorkshire Police of relevant prisoner’s release dates in advance so victims can be informed and appropriate safeguarding measures put in place.
North Yorkshire Police also provide information for consideration by Home Detention Custody Review Boards as part of their overarching risk assessment process in determining whether a prisoner should be released early from prison subject to an electronically monitored curfew – also known as ‘tagging’.
The prisons currently engaged in this project have created a manual process whereby all warning flags and contact blocks ‘travel’ with the prisoner if they are transferred to another prison.
The project is now receiving national attention due to its success locally, with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service currently considering how this approach could be adopted nationally.
Scrutiny Panels for Domestic Abuse and Rape
The Domestic Abuse Scrutiny Panel was established in 2018 to:
- Review and improve the investigation of domestic abuse in North Yorkshire and the City of York
- Review and improve the support offered and safeguarding of victims and their children
- Provide greater transparency and accountability to increase confidence in how North Yorkshire Police investigate domestic abuse
- Work with partners to better support victims and address the abusive behaviour of perpetrators
- Identify and promote strengths and good practice
The Panel is independently chaired, and its members are drawn from a range of local services that are independent of North Yorkshire Police and the OPFCC but are known to have expertise in the field of domestic abuse. The Panel also has lay members including a survivor of domestic abuse.
As part of the North Yorkshire Police Rape And Serious Sexual Offences (“RASSO”) improvement plan the Rape Scrutiny Panel was established in 2020 to review a sample of RASSO cases which have not been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service (“CPS”) for charge decision.
The purpose of the Panel is to:
- monitor the quality of No Further Action (“NFA”) decisions in RASSO cases
- assess the quality of NFA decision making and whether the case should have been submitted
- assess the timeliness of investigative actions
- consider whether all reasonable lines of inquiry had been undertaken and whether broader charging considerations (i.e. for non-RASSO charges) had been undertaken
- provide supportive feedback regarding those cases to both the investigating officers (OICs) and decision makers (Supervisor/Managers)
- identify and communicate any themes, learning and development requirements or other opportunities to improve the investigation, charging and prosecution processes for all future RASSO cases
The Panel meets quarterly and includes representation from North Yorkshire Police, CPS, Office of Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and ISVA Service. Each Panel meeting will focus on a particular theme which will cover a range of RASSO cases including but not limited to:
- cases involving a Victims Right to Review a decision not to refer to the CPS for charge authority
- rape within abusive relationships/domestic abuse cases
- rape by an acquaintance
- non-recent incidents
- cases involving children and young persons
- cases involving those with mental health impairments
Joint Strategic Sexual Abuse Steering Group
In 2018, the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner commissioned Lime Culture to conduct an independent review of a ‘victim’s journey’ through local sexual abuse services; one of the findings of this review recommended that a multi-agency forum was established to ensure a more consistent response to all forms of sexual violence and abuse to improve the overall experiences of victims and survivors accessing local services. Consultation and stakeholder workshops hosted by Mountain Healthcare Ltd in 2019 to consider the ‘Strategic Direction for Sexual Assault and Abuse Services’ published by NHS England in 2018 also recommended more work was required in ‘Driving Collaboration and Reducing Fragmentation’.
As a result, the Strategic Sexual Assault and Abuse Steering Group was initially established in late 2019 to provide a strategic overview and ensure consistency of approach to support existing partnerships and local services to better meet the needs of victims and survivors. Unfortunately, this work was put on hold from April 2020 due to significant operational pressures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but has recently re-commenced work to agree joint strategic priorities and development of a shared core set of outcomes and explore opportunities to jointly commission support services.
Sex Work, Survival Sex and Sexual Exploitation Group
In 2021, a multi-agency group was established to discuss individuals who may be involved in sex work, survival sex or at risk of or victims of sexual exploitation. The group was formed following concerns raised by North Yorkshire Police that they had intelligence on individuals who would fall into the above cohort and had other known vulnerabilities such as mental health issues, domestic abuse and substance misuse but there were no established pathways to share this information to better protect and safeguard these individuals. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated these concerns as it was felt that there was a growing hidden cohort of individuals at risk of further harm due to financial hardship and social isolation due national lockdown measures.
The group meets bi-monthly to discuss individuals of concern, who are identified through police intelligence and partner information. The group jointly agree an action plan to put appropriate safeguarding measures in place to limit exploitative situations and to offer suitable support.
Two specialist outreach workers have been funded by the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner to support this work and deliver satellite sessions to women in locations in the community that have been identified as vulnerable to exploitation via police intelligence, as well as in women-only supported accommodation and women’s prisons. The outreach workers also identify, reach out and respond to adults at risk online. They offer trauma-informed support, providing safety advice and information and invite women to local drop-ins and services where they can access further support. The support is tailored to each individual; this could be practical, emotional or personal safety support/advice. A host of interventions can be delivered including support with substance misuse, mental health, trauma recovery programs, improving relationships, emotion management, building and maintaining a pro-social identity as well as building social capital and achieving goals.
York Women’s Centre
In January 2019, the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner was awarded capital grant funding through the Ministry of Justice’s Female Offender Community Investment Fund to create a specialist Women’s Centre, with the intended purpose of supporting women who may face barriers to addressing issues that could lead to offending behaviour.
The capital funding was used to refurbish a property in York which has been renovated to a high standard and transformed to create a homely, safe, woman-only environment. The Centre has a shower, kitchen and laundry facilities, a one-to-one room and group room and a crèche area for children.
Ongoing revenue funding has been committed by the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner to ensure specialist, gender specific and trauma-informed service provision can be delivered from the Centre.
The overall aim of the Women’s Centre service is to engage and offer support to women:
- that may have multiple, acute and unmet needs
- that may be chronically excluded
- that are or are at risk of being involved with the criminal justice system
Advice and support to other professionals is also provided by the Centre in order to build the capacity of partners to respond and support women in a gender-informed way. Partners are also able to use the Centre to see women, to encourage them to use the facilities and to hot desk.
The Women’s Centre has achieved a number of meaningful outcomes since its inception. These include supporting women to secure permanent housing, attending court with women, ensuring women are adequately safeguarded by supporting requests for non-molestation orders and a successful digital inclusion project during lockdown to limit isolation.
Stalking Clinic Pilot
The Scarborough multi-agency stalking clinic was launched initially in May 2020 as a six-month pilot scheme to support victims, reduce risk and bridge the gap of interventions with perpetrators to prevent stalking behaviours.
The clinic focuses on high-risk cases and are attended by representatives from North Yorkshire County Council Children and Family Services, Scarborough Borough Council and Ryedale District Council Housing and Homeless Support, North Yorkshire Police, IDAS, Foundation UK, North Yorkshire Horizons, and probation officers who are involved with each individual case. To date, the clinics have discussed over 25 different perpetrators.
Specialist Stalking Team
In 2021 North Yorkshire Police established a new dedicated Stalking Team to better identify and address all forms of stalking at the earliest opportunity. The Team is comprised of a Detective Constable with extensive experience of investigating stalking offences and two Stalking Victim Support Officers who offer bespoke personal safety planning and implement specialist safeguarding measures as necessary to reduce further risk of harm.
In addition to reviewing all related incidents to ensure stalking concerns are more effectively identified and managed, the Team offer ‘Stalking Clinics’ for officers leading on current stalking and harassment investigations can discuss any concerns. The Team ensure any lessons learnt are acted upon in a timely manner and an effective problem-solving approach is embedded across the force in respect of stalking.
The Team are also responsible for the supervision and monitoring of perpetrators who are subject of Stalking Prevention Orders, conducting intelligence checks as required to ensure positive action and effective responses within the wider criminal justice system are delivered.
In January 2022, the Team was strengthened by a specialist Stalking Perpetrator Support Worker employed by Foundation UK as part of the commissioned +Choices: Support Services for Adult Perpetrators to specifically engage with perpetrators of stalking and support them to complete a bespoke behavioural change programme.